SCBWI Ireland Presents: Illustrator and Author Alan Corbett (2 February 2013)

SCBWI Ireland opened its first Cork meet-up of 2013 with a focus on illustration. After introductions and a brief plug for SCBWI Ireland, I introduced our guest speaker, illustrator Alan Corbett.

Alan Corbett

We were delighted to have Alan with us to speak about his graphic novel, Ghost of Shandon. Alan spoke for an hour about the development of his style and used slides and original drawings and prints of his art to demonstrate the growth of his artwork from his early training in graphic design at CIT to a Masters in Children’s Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art in England.

Alan has a fantastic imagination and tends to use a very autumnal palette of rich, deep reds, browns, greens, and ochres in a lot of his work. He has a wonderfully warped mind and works the many influences and interests in his life into his own work. I saw elements of steampunk in some of his images, like his reimagining of The Little Match Girl, where a character has a jack-in-the-box head, but his style is definitely unique and all his own. Alan works in layers, which creates depth and a richness to his images. He uses light and dark very effectively.

In one project, Alan created an updated version of the board game Cluedo that he set in an asylum with the appropriate characters and scary objects. There is no pretty Miss Plum with a candlestick in this world!

Ghost of Shandon cover

Ghost of Shandon

In 2012, Alan wrote and illustrated his graphic novel, Ghost of Shandon, which is set in 17th century Cork city and features two kids, Aisling and Ronan. What’s great about this story is that Alan has taken some less well-known local historical figures and legends and worked them into his narrative. It’s not often you get to see Nano Nagle in a graphic novel!

Alan was awarded “Best Independent Irish Comic Writer” at the Irish Comic News Awards (ICNA).

Among his many projects and activities, Alan is currently developing a new adventure for Aisling and Ronan.

Alan’s teaches a 10-week picture book illustration course at Art in the Park Cork City. The next session starts this Saturday, February 10, 2013. Art in the Park is located in Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork and you can register by email to:

Art in the Park 2013

Art in the Park 2013

To take a good look at Alan’s work and learn more about him, visit his website:

The Slimy Slug Takes the Cake

After Alan’s presentation, we enjoyed a coffee break, which gave everyone a chance to mix and mingle. One of the perks of the meet-ups is that some of the participants usually brings treats.

Thanks to writer Fiona Griffin for her hand-made chocolates and animator Jane Lee for her selection of biscuits.

Thank you to Martin Fahy of Riverpost, who gave a small hand-made, blank notebook to everyone who attended the meet-up. The dark green covers are hand embossed with a circular design across one corner.

Special mention has to be made for the amazing cake baked by illustrator Eleanor Reilly for Celia Carlile, who actually couldn’t attend the meet-up due to a family commitment. Celia was runner-up in the Agnes Sloane Illustration Competition in 2011 and as a result was commissioned to illustrate Wendy Hesketh’s book ‘The Slimy Slug’. The book was just published. Eleanor very cleverly recreated the main character and set him atop her delicious cake.


Picture books

After all the excitement of the Slimy Slug cake and other treats, we sat back down for a discussion about and look at a variety of picture books, graphic novels, illustrated non-fiction, and other formats that might inspire illustrators to think beyond the normal boundaries of a 32-page book. Samples ranged from a pop-up book for pre-schoolers, to a workbook to help kids coping with anxiety, to a Mo Willems story that mixed photos of New York overlaid with his drawn characters.

I hope that the session was inspiring for the illustrators and other participants. Who knows what ideas might come from a cake covered in chewy Smarties!

Resources for illustrators

As promised, I have created a Resources for Illustrators page on the website. We will add resources as we find them.


SCBWI Ireland has meet-ups in Cork every two months or so. We are planning the next one for early April after Easter. We are always looking for topics for discussion, so please feel free to comment on our Facebook page or by email.


I have written a blog post, which is a mini-review of all the picture books we looked at during the meet-up.


2 responses to “SCBWI Ireland Presents: Illustrator and Author Alan Corbett (2 February 2013)

  1. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited this web site before but after going through some of the posts I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely pleased I stumbled upon it and I’ll
    be book-marking it and checking back regularly!

    • Hi Eleanor, very happy you found us! Do let us know if you have any questions. We’re always trying to improve the resources and information we provide for writers and illustrators. Colleen 🙂

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